Understanding Car Insurance & Auto Insurance Claims
If you have been involved in a car accident that another driver caused, you have the right to seek just compensation for your damages, including:
- Past and future medical expenses
- Past and future lost income
- Pain and suffering
- All other accident-related expenses.
To pursue this compensation, you may need to turn to one or more insurance policies. Below, we describe 12 types of insurance coverage that typically are involved in auto accident claims.
Unfortunately, filing a claim with an insurance company after you have been in a crash is far from a simple, straightforward process. This is because insurance companies do not like to pay claims – period. The fewer claims they pay, the greater their profits.
So, when you file a claim, you can expect the insurance company – even your own insurer – to assert every defense available and leave no stone unturned in an attempt to deny your claim or pay an amount that is only a fraction of your total damages.
For this reason, you should always work with an attorney after you have been in a car accident in Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston or anywhere else in Texas. While the insurance company will be out to protect itself, your auto insurance lawyer will be out to protect you.
To learn more, please read on and contact Tate Law Offices without delay. We know how insurance companies operate. We will work hard to seek top dollar for your case and help you to move on from your accident.
Call or click here today to get started.
Third-Party Liability Insurance
Generally speaking, to register your car in Texas, you must buy liability insurance. This insurance pays for the damage you cause in a car accident.
So, if another driver causes your crash, your first step would be to file a claim with that driver’s liability insurance provider. Your recovery would depend on your ability to establish that the insured driver was at fault.
Currently, Texas requires drivers to carry liability coverage in the following minimum amounts (or limits):
- $30,000 per person for bodily injury
- $60,000 per accident for bodily injury (two or more persons)
- $25,000 for property damage (such as auto damage).
Hospital bills and other expenses can quickly add up after a crash. Fortunately, many drivers in Texas carry insurance that is above the minimum limits. However, if the at-fault driver in your case carries only the minimum limits, your attorney can help you to pursue other options, which we explain below.
Some individual drivers and companies carry an umbrella insurance policy. This is optional insurance coverage. It gives the driver or company protection that is in addition to what their liability insurance covers.
So, if you were hit and injured by another driver, and the driver’s liability coverage has been exhausted, you could certainly turn to the driver’s umbrella policy to cover your losses (if the policy exists).
Personal Injury Protection (PIP)
When you buy auto insurance, the insurer must offer you a minimum amount of $2,500 in PIP coverage. So, unless you reject this coverage in writing, you should have it. You can also buy coverage above $2,500.
PIP pays for your medical bills and 80 percent of your lost income after a crash – if incurred within three years after the date of the accident.
It can also reimburse you for any expenses for services that you incur to replace services you would have normally performed if you had not been injured.
To receive PIP benefits, you do not have to prove that anyone was at fault. The coverage should be available to you, your family members and any passengers who were in your car at the time of the accident.
Medical Payments Coverage
Medical payments (or “Med Pay”) coverage is another type of optional auto insurance. Like PIP coverage, you do not need to establish anyone’s fault when you file your Med Pay claim.
Med Pay covers you, your family members and passengers. You can also file a Med Pay claim if you or another person covered under the policy is struck by a car as a bicyclist or pedestrian.
For many reasons, it is a good idea to carry Med Pay. In particular, it can help you to pay your initial medical bills while you are waiting for a claim against the at-fault driver to be resolved.
Uninsured / Underinsured Motorist (UM/UIM)
If you are injured by a hit-and-run driver, a driver who has no insurance (in violation of the law) or has insurance that does not fully cover the losses you suffer in an auto accident, you will likely need to file a UM/UIM claim. You should have this coverage unless you rejected it in writing.
UM/UIM can cover you, your family and anyone driving your car with your permission. It can also cover injuries suffered as a bicyclist or pedestrian. You can have bodily injury UM/UIM, property damage UM/UIM or both.
At Tate Law Offices, we believe that carrying a large UM/UIM insurance policy is highly important. For only a few extra dollars per month in premium payments, you can ensure that you have needed protection if you are involved in a wreck.
The purpose of UM/UIM coverage is to place you in the same position you would be in if the uninsured/underinsured motorist had been properly insured.
However, for UM/UIM insurance to become effective, you must first prove:
- The at-fault driver was not insured or lacked enough insurance
- You have obtained all the insurance available
- You have acquired consent to settle from the UM/UIM carrier.
If UM/UIM comes into play, your insurance company will, in effect, step into the shoes of the at-fault driver and advocate his/her position in an effort to deny or limit the amount you are paid. An attorney can play an important role in protecting your rights in this situation.
Collision and Comprehensive
If you are financing your car – and most of us do – then your lender has likely required you to carry collision coverage. This policy covers the costs of repairing your car or replacing it if the car is deemed to be “totaled.”
If your car is damaged in a wreck caused by another driver, you have the choice to either file a claim through your collision policy or through the at-fault driver’s property damage liability policy.
If you choose to file a collision claim, your car may get repaired faster. You will likely pay a deductible. You or your insurer can then seek a recovery of this deductible from the at-fault driver.
Your lender may also require you to carry comprehensive coverage. This policy will pay for repair or replacement of your car if it is damaged in a non-collision. For instance, you may file a comprehensive claim if your car was damaged by vandalism or in a fire or flood.
Our lawyers often help those who have been injured by drivers who were acting in the course and scope of their employment when the wreck occurred. For example, the driver could have been talking with the office on a cell phone when he or she struck your car.
If this occurred in your case, we can turn to the employer’s liability insurance policy to pay for your damages. This type of insurance could be a direct policy that insures a company vehicle, or it could be a policy that covers vehicles owned by a company employee or agent that are used for work purposes.
If you were in a car accident while you were acting in the course and scope of your employment, you may be entitled to file a claim through your own employer’s workers’ compensation insurance (or a private plan that replaces it).
Workers’ compensation can pay your medical bills and replace a portion of the wages you cannot earn due to disability that is caused by your accident. You do not need to prove anyone’s fault in order to receive these benefits.
However, if another driver caused your crash, we can seek to collect the same medical bills from that driver as well as compensation for all – not a portion – of your lost wages. We can also seek a recovery of pain and suffering and other damages which are not covered by workers’ compensation.
Keep in mind: The workers’ compensation insurer will likely file a lien on your recovery in order to recover the amount it has paid. At Tate Law Offices, we can usually negotiate a discount for you to repay the insurer for less than the amount the insurer actually paid, resulting in more money in your pocket.
Car Manufacturer Insurance
If a vehicle defect such as a blown tire caused your accident or contributed in any way to the severity of your injuries in a crash caused by another driver, you can seek a recovery of your damages through the manufacturer’s insurance.
For example, our lawyers have brought claims against automakers such as GM and Chrysler in cases in which a roof crushed in during an accident and injured our client.
We have also filed claims against auto companies for the failure to install electronic stability control (ESC), which in turn caused a client’s vehicle to skid off the roadway and roll over in a crash.
In some situations, a claim against a manufacturer may need to be filed because a safety feature such as a seat belt, air bag or child seat failed to function properly in a crash.
Private Health Insurance or Medicare / Medicaid
In many cases, a person’s initial medical bills are paid through their privately purchased or employer-provided health insurance plan such as Blue Cross Blue Shield, United Healthcare or Cigna.
If a person’s income and resources falls below a certain level, the person may be eligible for Medicaid or Medicare, which can pay these bills as well after a crash.
Regardless of whether a person’s medical bills are paid through private or public health insurance, compensation for those expenses can be sought in a car accident claim.
However, you should be aware that Medicare or Medicaid will seek reimbursement for what it pays for your treatment. The agency will place a lien on your recovery. Also, most private health insurers have a subrogation clause in their contracts, giving them the right to be repaid if a financial recovery is obtained from the at-fault driver.
Tate Law Offices will make every effort to negotiate down the amount of reimbursement that is ultimately paid to a private or public health insurer, with the goal of securing more compensation for you.
What You Should Know About Dealing with Insurance Companies
After being injured in an auto accident through no fault of your own, you might assume that you will be “in good hands” with the insurance companies. However, in our experience, this is not always the case.
Insurance companies are for-profit businesses. They are focused on making money. They are not looking out for your best interests. As a result, they will look for ways to avoid paying you the full extent of your damages.
Common insurance company tactics are:
- Contacting you right after a crash – You may still be in shock after your accident when the insurer calls you. The insurer will be looking to take advantage of your vulnerable state and may ask for a recorded statement or make a settlement offer.
- Using your words against you – If you make any statements at the accident scene or when you are contacted by the insurance company, you can expect that the insurer will use your words against you in a bid to avoid paying your claim. Even saying something slightly incriminating such as, “I’m sorry,” could be used as an admission of fault.
- Using your health against you – An insurance company may ask to access your health records. The insurer is seeking information about any health issues that could be used to deny or minimize your claim. For instance, if your health records show that you have poor eyesight, the insurer may try to use this fact against you.
Because of these tactics, we urge you to never give a recorded statement to the insurance company, allow access to your medical records or – most importantly – accept a settlement offer until you have met first with an auto insurance lawyer.
Auto Insurance Claims and Auto Insurance Lawyer
Once you are represented by an attorney from Tate Law Offices, you will never have to deal directly with the insurance company. We will deal with them for you while you focus on your health and your family.
We can provide many services, including:
- Reviewing your insurance policy to determine your coverage options and identifying all other insurance policies involved in your case.
- Serving as a liaison between you and the insurance companies.
- Making a demand for compensation for your medical expenses, lost income, pain and suffering and other damages after we have conducted a thorough investigation of your case and consulted with experts.
- Reviewing any settlement offers and advising you on whether the offer fully and fairly compensates you.
- Taking your case to court if the insurer refuses to make a reasonable settlement offer.
- Helping you to resolve any liens attached to your recovery, with a goal of maximizing the amount that goes into your pocket.
- Protecting your rights at every stage in the process, including your right to refrain from giving a recorded statement and your right to privacy with your health records.
Don’t try to deal with the insurance companies on your own. If you or a loved one has been involved in an auto accident in Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston or elsewhere in Texas, contact Tate Law Offices instead. We will truly stand by your side and seek a maximum financial recovery for you.
To schedule a free consultation, call or connect with us online today.